I recently returned back to the world of work after staying at home to raise my children.
I don’t really like using that phrase ‘return back to work’ as I never stopped working in the first place. Firstly, mums work ALL THE TIME. Being a stay at home mum is most definitely, without a doubt, work.
For a few years I also worked as a freelance copywriter, peddling my wares during nap times and whatever hours I could find during the week so that I could carve out my little online business.
It was something I loved doing and had always wanted to do.
I enjoyed the autonomy of running my own business and blogging while still being there for my young children.
My eldest started school in September last year. Working as a freelancer meant that I could still sneak off to class assemblies and be there at the school gates dropping him off and picking him up.
But despite having happy clients and doing well, I started to struggle.
As I sure many work from home mums can testify, it is hard work juggling family life while setting up a business. You need oodles of energy, child support or strong coffee. I worked late nights and utilised every spare minute I could emotionally and physically afford.
I had three hours childcare a week so worked most evenings and during nap times.
Hats off to those who manage it. After a few years, working this way started to take its toll and I knew it was time to make a change.
Why I Went Back to Work
We needed the money, I wanted to refresh my skills and I missed having colleagues.
Luckily I stumbled upon a job in internal communications which fitted the bill perfectly. Two interviews and a presentation later and I secured the job. So last November I started back, four days a week in my first new job in nearly seven years.
The First Few Months
I’m happy to report that it’s working out. While the hours are longer than I originally hoped, I have managed to adapt and still maintain a work-life balance.
I admit, the thought of leaving my youngest for four days a week nearly broke me. There were moments before starting that I was convinced I was making the wrong decision for my family.
While the first few months were rocky, the children have adapted brilliantly to our new way of life. I surprised myself at how quickly I adapted, too. Not only was I returning to the rigidity of working life but it was for a corporate organisation. I had only ever worked either for small businesses in-house or for creative agencies so this was a huge step out of my comfort zone.
My skills are being challenged and refreshed every day. I enjoy being able to learn again and put what I learnt as a freelancer back into practice and on a larger scale. I’ve noticed that I’m more resilient and can get a heck of a lot done in an hour (the upside of working through baby nap times).
Returning to work is not an easy decision to make; neither is it a right or wrong one. The choice is personal to you and entirely depends on what works best for you and your family.
If you’re thinking of heading back into employment, here are a few tips to help you along the way.
Can You Afford to Work?
Childcare costs are one of the biggest reasons why we put off me returning back to employment. Unless we could make it work, there was no way I was going to sacrifice time with the kids for no financial gain.
Speak to childcare providers in the area to get an idea of costs. Speak to family members who might be able to help out a day a week. Consider using childminders instead of nurseries as they usually end up cheaper. Don’t forget to look into what free hours or tax-free childcare schemes.
Of course, you also need to consider whether you can afford not to head back to work. If you’re struggling financially then it might be a tough choice you have to make.
Do You Need Flexibility?
Once you have kids your priorities change. The career you had before you had kids might not offer you the flexibility you need or the understanding from your colleagues.
Do you need to pick up the kids from school? If you need to pick them up at 3pm, then a 5pm finish isn’t going to work. Look for a role that offers flexible working. Some jobs don’t advertise flexible working so don’t hesitate to ask as this might be something they’d be able to help out with.
Do You Want to Stay in the Same Career?
Not all careers offer the flexibility and understanding when it comes to children. In my pre-kids life I would happily work 12 hour days without much thought. Overtime was never an issue and I could get in early if I needed to or leave late if I was working on a deadline. These days I need to be leaving on the dot to pick up the children so I can see them before bedtime. Luckily, the company I now work for offers flexibility to everyone so it’s not an issue.
Carefully consider your options and don’t accept the job if it doesn’t feel right.
Do You Want to Go Back to Work?
Going back to work can at times be really hard on an emotional level. Even if you’re dreaming of enjoying a hot coffee at your desk and see the hours spent as work as ‘me time’, there are going to be moments when you miss the kids. If you’re simply bored of being at home but not sure that employment is the answer, then look at alternative ways to earn money.
Start blogging, enrol in a new course or take up a hobby as this might be just what you need to feel like yourself again.
Going back to work doesn’t just affect you. Everyone in your family will need to get on board and help get home life in order so that things run smoothly during the week. Aside from dropping off and picking up the kids from nursery, think about who is going to be the one who takes the phone calls from school. Who is going to be there should you have a delivery at home? Who is going to do the shopping and cook the meals? It’s a team effort so make sure you work together to organise and schedule as much as you can.
We use this brilliant Gruffalo family calendar. It has separate columns for each family member, fun stickers for and a pouch to keep all the party invites and letters from school. I think we’d be lost without it now! This is an affiliate link.
Have you recently returned to employment? How do you manage and do you enjoy having a career outside of your family life?